Review and Photos By Robert Mahony
At 78, Lee “Scratch” Perry is still every bit the performer/advocate for the genre which he helped begin (Dub music, an offshoot of Reggae).
On a steamy night in mid April of this year, I had the great fortune of covering this legend’s return to the city of Atlanta for the first time in years. Lee brings an eclectic 3 piece including a genuine monster on the bass guitar – Paul Zansky of Dubblestandart (Vienna); On Riddems, Electronics, Melodica, and Dub Mixing you have the incomparable Emch who seems to effortlessly hold everything together by keeping the rhythm of the moment together as band leader; finally there is the legendary percussionist who was an original Black Ark studio player Larry McDonald. Larry has worked with the likes of Peter Tosh, Sly and Robbie, Bob Marley, Gil Scot Heron, Taj Mahal and many, many more. Together, the latter 3 for what is known as Subatomic Sound System, a Brooklyn based collective that started collaborating with Perry in 2008. “Founded in 1999, Subatomic Sound System brought together musicians, producers, DJs and visual artists from a variety of backgrounds and traditions primarily based in New York City and Brooklyn to form a record label and collective that built on a combination of new music technology and traditional instruments to produce music across a variety of genres, often combining genres, in an effort to adapt 1970s’ Jamaican sound system culture and dub reggae studio techniques to current music genres and forms of live performance.”(Wiki)
The show starts off impressively as the room swells with the luscious thick bass that Dub is most known for, although what I personally once perceived as being possibly to oppressive in it’s degree of loudness was actually soothing, moving me even. And then, to much acclaim and applause, the Dub master himself graces the stage, bringing with him a banana to act as an incense stand, his setlist, a glass of wine, and more swagger to a stage than I’ve personally ever witnessed any human over the age of 70 bring. His outfit alone commands the eyes attention as he arrives cloaked in a matching pair of psychedelically celestial sweater and pants, a hat adorned with a disco ball, feathers, patches, and much much more, and his own personal mic, retrofitted with many personal touches.
From the moment he graces us with his presence, Perry and Subatomic Sound systems smooth rhythm and tight band connection grooved down in every way. A true highlight for me personally was getting to see a percussionist bring to life an instrument that couldn’t be more overlooked in modern music, let alone one I had never seen played so tenaciously. And that instrument happened to be a metal triangle.
The band gave us 16 songs from Perry’s 59 album catalog, including a song that they came together to create titled Black Ark Vampires.
Going in an admittedly casual fan of reggae and even less familiar with Dub, Lee Scratch Perry managed to make me reconsider my stance. The man, after all, is the Godfather of Dub, having gone to such lengths during the creative process as to bury mics at the base of palm trees, then striking the tree in order to capture the reverberated sound that echoed into the ground…..if that is genuine innovation, in the 1970’s no less, then I don’t know what is. There’s a reason you don’t miss this act when it passes through your town, and now I know why.
Sun Is Shining
Chase The Devil
Blackboard Jungle Dub
I’m A Mad Man
Vampires & Informers
Respect My Shit
Black Ark Vampires
War Inna Babylon
Roast Fish & Cornbread
Here are a few clips from the show that night and below Soundcloud links: